Is the Crucifixion ‘Excessively Violent’? January 1, 2011

Is the Crucifixion ‘Excessively Violent’?

The owner of the Atheist Tees store on Zazzle, a custom t-shirt design store, contacted me to say one of the images he had up was banned from their site:

Why was it banned? It was deemed too violent:

Alright… well, Zazzle has every right to get rid of shirts they think are violent…

But there are over 2,000 products that deal with the crucifixion. Is the image above really that much more worse than these?

So depicting actual violence from one religion is ok, but depicting suggested violence from another religion is not?

Is Zazzle applying their policy fairly or this another double-standard that favors Christianity?


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  • Ibis

    One possibility: they’ve never had the policy tested with the crucifixion images because no one’s ever complained that they’re violent.

    Just more evidence of how the death cult has inured people to violence as long as a Christian is committing* it.

    But take that same crucifixion scene and put ants on it or change Jesus into a woman and the very same Christians froth at the mouth.

    *in this case by displaying graphic images rather than committing violence in real life.

  • Ibis makes a good point. Maybe they base this on how many people complain about a particular image.

    Another possibility is that they allowed the crucifixion because it’s a religious/mythological story (and we don’t know if it really happened) whereas the deaths in Iran are real (even though the picture is silhouettes).

  • Danielle

    Awww, they removed it? I was gonna order that shirt this month. 🙁

  • Richard Wade

    Ibis had a good point about how maybe nobody has complained about the crucifixion images, so I complained.

    I clicked on the “deemed too violent” link, and using the “Contact us” window at the bottom of the “Acceptable Content Guidelines” page, I wrote:

    It has come to my attention that Zazzle has banned a design featuring the silhouette of five hanged persons, with the caption “For more God in government, move to Iran” because the design contains “excessive violence.” I also see that Zazzle has products with hundreds of images of the crucifixion, several of which are quite bloody and disgusting, not just the G-rated depictions of the torturing to death of a man.

    Why have you banned an image that is mild in comparison to several gruesome images? Could it be that no one has complained yet about the crucifixion images? Well, I’m complaining now. They’re horrific, and if you’re going to ban one for “depicting excessive violence,” you certainly should ban those, or lift the ban on the “go to Iran” image.

    It strongly appears that Zazzle is not applying their policy of censorship according to an objection to depicting excessive violence, but actually an objection to a religious/political view.

    I understand that you “reserve the right to decline to use uploaded images or texts at your sole discretion,” but hiding behind the rationalization that the image is too violent shows you to be hypocrites. You should be honest about your reason to censor an image.

    I will not be buying any Zazzle products in the future until you cease your practice of applying double standards and dishonest excuses for favoritism of one religious/political view over another.

  • Alex

    One possibility: they’ve never had the policy tested with the crucifixion images because no one’s ever complained that they’re violent.

    If they had gotten Xian complaints, I’m not sure they would be too worried. Now if they got a complaint from an angry Iranian muslim, or maybe thought they might get one, their balls might have tightened up and decided to pull the image to play it safe.

  • Deiloh

    IDK maybe it is like cartoon violence vs. actual violence. Show a zombie getting thwacked with a bat and nobody cares, show a mangled car accident victim and empathy kicks in. I guess that would mean Christians lack empathy for their slaughtered icon and so have no problem using his bloody tortured form in consumer goods.

  • one wonders who was “complaining.” are there that many pro-Iranian government hanging heretics types out there, who would go to a site named Zazzle to buy an english language humor shirt? somehow, that doesn’t make too much sense.

    i have always wondered how adults who think themselves moral could expose their own children to the violence of religious mythology. “and then, the gods rained down fire and slaughtered everybody and killed all the little baby kittens cause they were pissed. good night jr, remember: it/they/he loves you.” i got yelled at for watching a few minutes of a sci fi action movie with one of the younglings, once. but that same parenting group will expose him to the slaughter of infants, heads dashed on rocks, soon. because a crucified zombie they worship expects them to.

  • Daniel

    I wonder if intent factors in.

    Assuming the mythology, presumably the idea is that Jesus died intentionally, while those killed in the name of religion did not.

    I wonder how the policy would apply to depictions of masochism or suicide as that seems far more in line with the Jesus imagery from an intent factor.

  • Indeed, if the complaint came from a Muslim, I can bet money they decided to remove it, and quickly.

  • Richard Wade

    My first assumption was not that a Muslim had complained about the shirt, but some would-be theocrat who wants to keep insinuating their religion into government. There are plenty of those in the U.S.

  • Karen

    I am a loyal Zazzle customer, but I might be changing that after this incident. I will be writing them to complain.

  • Claudia

    I won’t complain about the Jesus shirts, because I don’t think that the solution for the shutting down of expression is to demand that the other guy’s expression also be limited.

    The reason Jesus on the cross doesn’t shock as much as the sillouetes of Iranian victims is twofold. On the one hand, no one has ever witnessed a crucifixion, but the above image does rather rudely remind you of actual photographs of hangings in Iran happening right now to real-life people, not a guy in a book.

    The other reason of course is pure habit. Any person in the western world has seen the image of the crucifixion from our most tender childhoods. We don’t even notice the violence of it, most of the time. While far from an objective reason (violence is violence) the fact remains that I’m betting you wouldn’t bat an eyelash at the site of a t-shirt with a roasted turkey, but if it was a depiction of a roasted dog, or a deep-fried cat, you’d wince, to say the least. Our cultural assumptions are subjective, but they are very real to us. This is why speech must be kept as free as possible, because “offense” is unbelievably subjective, so you can’t legitimize getting rid of things that are “offensive” without risking curtailing it to a frightening degree.

  • Richard Wade

    I agree Claudia, limiting others’ expression on t-shirts is not a good solution, which is why when I complained about the crucifixion images, I said ban them all or lift the ban on the “move to Iran” image. That would be the best outcome.

  • Tizzle

    I wouldn’t wear any of these. I abhor violence, and gore.

    Yet I think the banned one is way more violent than the 2 examples Hemant has shown of the crucifixion. crucifiction. (sp?) The 3rd one Jesus is smiling, even though he’s bloody. Seems cartoonish and almost cute.

    I’m just posting to prove anecdotally that tastes vary. I’m not saying ban anything.

  • Peter M

    About the ambiquity quite simply you are dealing with a religion that eats the body of, and drinks the blood of their god… what do you expect.

  • Jim H

    Off topic (slightly):

    Tizzle wrote “crucifiction. (sp?)”.

    That’s not bad. Definition: a story about a death-by-crucifixion.

  • Claudia

    @Richard, I understand your position. I wasn’t commenting specifically about your complaint and I’m sorry if I gave that impression. It’s just that I often see complaints about double standards express some variation of “Why don’t you ban this if you ban that?”. While I understand it’s the double standard that’s the problem, I think it’s very important to note that one is adovacting for equal treatment for all in the specific direction of more freedom of expression and not less. Cheers (and Happy New Year 🙂 )

  • Judging by their email responses to my queries, it had nothing to do with intent whatsoever.
    Here is what they wrote me in one of their responses:

    “…Unfortunately, your product was removed because it featured a design that does not meet Zazzle’s Acceptable Content Guidelines…”

    Their initial email to me stated (as shown above in Hemant’s post) that it was a violation of their “excessive violence” rule that got my product banned and nothing more.
    Their rules can be found here.
    This isn’t the first time I’ve been targeted for controversial content and it won’t be the last.
    I agree with Claudia that it is perhaps due to desensitization that they hold to a double standard. Cultural desensitization, however, does not in any way make this enforcement of their standard less capricious, discriminatory or wrong.

  • Richard Wade

    Claudia,
    It’s understood, and I didn’t feel attacked or anything. Just clarifying my intention for anyone who wondered. All the best for the new year to you too.

  • Tony

    The jesus images I have found on Zazzle have all been G rated so far. This is a violation of the Zazzle rating system. G rated images cannot contain violence.

    DOES NOT CONTAIN: Nudity, drug content, depictions of illegal activities, violence, derogatory references towards race, religion, sexual orientation, or physical/mental handicaps

  • Tony

    Acceptable Content Guidelines
    We would like for everyone to enjoy all the products that Zazzle has to offer. We fully respect the rights to free expression, and are thrilled that Zazzle products enable people to express themselves fully in the real world.

    To ensure that Zazzle continues to be enjoyed by everyone, we have a few rules that we ask for everyone to abide by. The following content is not permitted at Zazzle:

    ?No text or images that infringe on any intellectual property rights including, but not limited to copyrights, trademarks and rights of privacy/publicity
    ?No text or images of obscenity, pornography or nudity that is not artistic in nature
    ?No text or images that encourage or glorify drug use/abuse
    ?No excessive violence
    ?No content that is libelous or defamatory
    ?No content that can reasonably be viewed as harassing, threatening, or otherwise harmful
    ?No hate speech
    ?No content that can reasonably be viewed as discriminatory based upon race, ethnicity, national origin, sexual orientation, or disability
    ?No content that violates or encourages anyone else to violate any law
    Any products that are deemed unacceptable by the rules above, or deemed offensive or in bad taste at the sole judgment of Zazzle will have the products cancelled and removed from the Marketplace with or without notice.

  • Ron in Houston

    What? You think companies should be logically consistent? You think they should apply the same standards to different content?

    Silly Hemant!!

  • Spencer

    While this is Zazzle’s store, and they have every right to have content policies like this, I find them stupid. Especially when they have an apparent double standard.

  • emily

    I don’t see why you would say that this policy favors Christianity– unless you believe that Zazzle was discriminating against Islam by taking down that original shirt? If anything, Zazzle is favoring religion in general, but not Christianity in exclusion.

    I’d also like to agree with Claudia and say that this has more to do with the fact that we are conditioned to the image of Jesus on a cross. It does not have the same effect as it might have had once.

  • X

    The big difference is that one has actually happened and one is a story. No one is going to be hurt by seeing the image of Jesus being crucified because either it didn’t happen or it happened so long ago that no one who knew Jesus is around to be upset by an image of him with a crown of thorns. On the other hand, there are real, actual people being hurt and killed in Iran right now. They or their family could see this and see their real pain being depicted to score political points.

    Real violence that is currently occurring is more likely to get booted than something that may or may not have happened two thousand years ago. On the scale of hypocritical “censoring” acts by a company, this is pretty low down there.

  • SpaceMonkey

    Well done, Richard, for your well-reasoned and convincingly argued complaint to Zazzle. I would suspect that the complainant who originally stimulated the ban on the ‘Move to Iran’ shirts would be a Xian who was offended by the mere suggestion that a theocratic government could be anything other than a wonderful thing. I too will write to Zazzle and outline my grievances similarly. They need to demonstrate consistency in the moderation of their content and not selective favouritism.

  • Demonhype

    @Ibis:

    Just more evidence of how the death cult has inured people to violence as long as a Christian is committing* it.

    This is so true. I never realized how deep that inuring can be, and I never thought I had been personally inured, since I never had much interest or reverence for Jesus in the first place. Then I re-read a book for kids from Catholic school about some saint–Therese or something, the one from the 1800’s who died of tuberculosis. The entire thing is written from her POV and sounds disturbingly like the submissive part of an S&M dialogue, not to mention the “yes, God, hurt me good! YES!” behavior in the death scene. You’d think she was having an orgasm from pain. Not to mention all the leading-up in the book, about how she knows she’s got TB but tries not to let on because she’s just totally into dying in agony for Jesus.

    When I read that at about eight years old, none of this even registered. When I found it in a old pile of books in my mid-twenties, after having become an atheist, I was horrified at this unbelievably twisted depiction of “true morality and godliness”.

    And keep in mind, this is a kid’s book, written for kids, in large print. Not for tiny little kids, of course, and I always read a few years above my age level, but definitely for kids under thirteen. I guess when it’s a religious icon saying “thank you sir, though I am most unworthy” to God, then that sadomasochism is a-okay.

    I’m still amazed at how I missed that when I was a kid. And that wasn’t even Jesus, just one of his Special Special People. So, yes, it’s very likely that people just do not register the intense violence of Christianity.

  • Richard Wade

    I find that insipid eyes-to-heaven image of Jesus reeeeeeally annoying. He looks like he’s expecting room service to descend the glass elevator at a five star hotel. Brown blood? Blue eyes? And he looks a lot more like Johnny Depp than anybody from the Middle East of 2000 years ago.

    The saccharin-in-suffering is more offensive than real gore.

  • Josh

    I’d like to go a step further and point out that many christians don’t even find the bloody Jesus image violent in the least. They don’t see the blood and what-not. Just a depiction of an all-loving being in the act of giving the greatest gift in the history of humanity. How could that be violent?

    I’m not even going to bother highlighting all the problems there.

  • Claudia

    You’d think she was having an orgasm from pain

    That’s more likely than you’d think. You’ve heard about having a personal relationship with Jesus? Santa Teresa had a VERY personal relationship with Jesus. Here’s her writing about the “religious ecstacy” (translated from Spanish):

    I saw in his hand a long spear of gold, and at the iron’s point there seemed to be a little fire. He appeared to me to be thrusting it at times into my heart, and to pierce my very entrails; when he drew it out, he seemed to draw them out also, and to leave me all on fire with a great love of God. The pain was so great, that it made me moan; and yet so surpassing was the sweetness of this excessive pain, that I could not wish to be rid of it. The soul is satisfied now with nothing less than God. The pain is not bodily, but spiritual; though the body has its share in it. It is a caressing of love so sweet which now takes place between the soul and God, that I pray God of His goodness to make him experience it who may think that I am lying.

    Now, an eight year old would read this with some vague disinterest. An adult however would be blushing by the end of the first verse and sweating by the end of the whole thing. It’s unknown if she even understood what was happening to her during these, ejem, experiences, because she grew up in a convent and hence was quite ignorant about..well, you know. I live in Spain, very close to Ávila, where she’s from. The convent where she grew up is a museum now, and it’s a lot of fun to hang out near a big plaque where the above writing is and watch people read it while they become redder and redder and more nervous…

  • Eh, I’m fine with their policy but it should be equally applied. Take the business elsewhere if you have a problem with a company that limits what you can and cannot print.

    Frankly, I’m more than fine with it. I don’t want my grandson seeing any of the above t-shirts. Point blank. I really don’t understand the need to print t-shirt messages that are gory or obscene when it’s assumed that one will be walking around in public where one can assume they will cross paths with a kid or two in them. Do you also get off on showing porn or R-rated movie images to little kids?

    Meh, there are much better ways to send the message on something that’s intended to be publicly worn. I like the image but it’s not one for kids. Hang it as a poster in your bachelor pad or something. In your bedroom if you have kid visitors from time to time.

    It is disgusting that the Christians get a pass on subjecting kids to violent images. They scream the loudest for censorship for the sake of children yet they subject those same children to crucifixion, Noah and the flood, David killing a giant that wants to kill him and his people, a father nearly sacrificing his son, Cain killing his brother in a jealous rage, and endless accounts of genocide.

    I think I’m going to spend a little time this morning flagging the Xian ones.

  • Jingles

    To whoever said all the Zazzle image are g-rated- bullshit! Blood is automatically WAY past a g-rating. And pretty much any picture of Jesus with thorns shoved into his face and NAILS THROUGH HIS HANDS contains blood.

  • I used this image for a badge and Zazzle took it down as it was “offensive”…

  • Ashton

    I don’t think that first image of Jesus is excessively violent, but the second one is pretty bloody. The picture of hanged people is pretty nauseating, though. I really wouldn’t call what they did censorship. They’re just electing not to sell a certain product. If you want to sell something like that, I’m sure you can find some other place to do it. But if they are banning things for excessive violence, they should be careful about how they’re doing it to make sure that they aren’t discriminatory. If it takes a complaint to ban an image, then go complain about some (SOME, really people exercise care here) of the crucifixion ones.

  • Unrein

    Eh, I’m fine with their policy but it should be equally applied. Take the business elsewhere if you have a problem with a company that limits what you can and cannot print.

    Frankly, I’m more than fine with it. I don’t want my grandson seeing any of the above t-shirts. Point blank. I really don’t understand the need to print t-shirt messages that are gory or obscene when it’s assumed that one will be walking around in public where one can assume they will cross paths with a kid or two in them. Do you also get off on showing porn or R-rated movie images to little kids?

    Meh, there are much better ways to send the message on something that’s intended to be publicly worn. I like the image but it’s not one for kids. Hang it as a poster in your bachelor pad or something. In your bedroom if you have kid visitors from time to time.

    It is disgusting that the Christians get a pass on subjecting kids to violent images. They scream the loudest for censorship for the sake of children yet they subject those same children to crucifixion, Noah and the flood, David killing a giant that wants to kill him and his people, a father nearly sacrificing his son, Cain killing his brother in a jealous rage, and endless accounts of genocide.

    I think I’m going to spend a little time this morning flagging the Xian ones.

    A nice little diaper-sniffing child worship thing you have got going there. You really think children are going to be traumatized for life by seeing a frickin’ T-shirt? Or don’t you just want to explain to your children why someone would wear or make a T-shirt like that? I’ll wear what the hell I want in public. When gays and “infidels” are being killed in Iran, keeping pampered western children in a bubble is a low, low priority.

  • I am reminded of a story about Nike from years ago. I don’t know if this story is true; it might just be an urban legend.

    The story is that Nike had a promotion where you could have a word or phrase printed on your shoes if you ordered them.

    One smart-assed kid requested a pair of shoes with the word “sweatshop”. He was told that the word was in violation of Nike’s policy that prohibited offensive words.

    After a long back and forth about whether or not the word “sweatshop” is offensive, somebody at Nike finally admitted that they were going to print that word on a pair of shoes simply because they didn’t want the bad publicity.

    Again, I don’t know if any of that actually happened.

    But I think that it does happen quite often. Applying the rules consistency would hurt profit, so they simply do not. There really isn’t any incentive for them to do so.

  • I’m surprised that it’s taken this long for somebody to mention – but the second picture of Jesus actually seems to be mocking the crucifixion rather than glorifying in it. It seems to be satirically making the same point about inappropriate gore that you all seem to be banging on about.

    I agree with Richard about the annoyingness of the first one.

    There’d be a lot of Christians out there post reformation who would be pretty theologically offended by all the pictures of Jesus. Protestants aren’t big on iconography (in theory – not so much in practice) – and most of these would fall into that category.

  • Unrein, you’re an ass. There’s a hell of a lot of difference between diaper sniffing worshipping and considering what is good or not for children? I guess you’re all for showing them porn and firing squads then since somewhere in the world there are children having to endure much worse?

    Look disagree with me all you want but do you care to be a tad more rational while doing it? (Betting you’re a Christer I offended by saying the stories Christians tell children are way beyond what should be.)

  • Ryan

    I guess the last question we have to ask ourselves is: Why would anyone buy such a stupid shirt anyway?

  • Darthskull

    probably. Why is that bad? They probably cater to mostly Christians, they probably wanna keep um happy. Besides, looking from the view of the costomers, they wanna ask what people will see? some religious blah, or violence, so they cater to that.

  • Darthskull

    If I here one more person, Sharmin’s comment being my example, use mythilogical story and Jesus dieing on the cross in the same sentence again… ohhhh i’ll be angry. Anyone here doubt the historical evidence suggesting this guy died on a cross? Then don’t act like it. please don’t be stupid

  • Maybe if the hanging people on the shirt were smiling like Jesus on the other shirt it would be fine. I guess being able to smile while you are dying makes the difference.

    Just another “happy” belief of a violent idea.

  • Anyone here doubt the historical evidence suggesting this guy died on a cross? Then don’t act like it. please don’t be stupid

    Well, as far as I know, there isn’t solid historical evidence that Jesus existed in the first place, let alone that he died on a cross. What source are you drawing from that proves to you that the biblical Jesus both existed and died by crucifixion?